Country Scores

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6 ↓
Status: Not Free
Population: 13,300,000
Capital: Harare

2008 Key Developments: Parliamentary and presidential elections were held in March 2008 amid a state-directed campaign of violence and intimidation that targeted members and supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Nevertheless, the MDC denied President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party a majority in Parliament for the first time, and MDC presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe. Violence by ZANU-PF militias intensified ahead of a presidential runoff in late June, leading to Tsvangirai's withdrawal and an uncontested victory for Mugabe. South African-brokered negotiations resulted in a controversial power-sharing agreement in September. However, disputes over the allocation of cabinet seats – as well as the abduction of scores of MDC officials and activists – prevented the formation of a national-unity government by year's end. Zimbabwe's economic collapse continued in 2008, with hyperinflation reaching an astounding 13 billion percent.

Political Rights: Zimbabwe is not an electoral democracy. President Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party have dominated the political landscape since independence in 1980. Presidential and legislative elections in March 2008 were marred by a wide-ranging and brutal campaign of violence and intimidation, flawed voter registration and balloting, biased media coverage, and the use of state resources to bribe and threaten voters. Despite political violence and vote rigging, the two factions of the opposition MDC won a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, while ZANU-PF maintained its majority in the Senate. The September power sharing agreement divided ministries between the two parties and installed Tsvangirai as prime minister, while Mugabe remained president. Corruption is rampant throughout the country, including at the highest levels of government.

Civil Liberties: Freedoms of expression and the press are severely restricted. Journalists are required to register with the state and are routinely subjected to intimidation, physical attacks, arrest and detention, and financial pressure. In 2008, scores of local and foreign journalists were beaten or detained, both before and after the elections. While freedom of religion has generally been respected, church attendance has become increasingly politicized. Nongovernmental organizations have faced increasing legal restrictions and extralegal harassment, and human rights groups are explicitly prohibited from receiving foreign funds. While some courts have struck down or disputed government actions, increasing pressure by the regime has substantially eroded judicial independence. In general, security forces are accountable to the government but abuse citizens with impunity. ZANU-PF militias operate as de facto enforcers of government policies and have committed assault, torture, rape, extralegal evictions, and extralegal executions. Prison conditions are harsh, and deaths in prisons are often caused by disease or beatings by guards. The state has extensive control over travel and residence, and property rights are not respected. Women enjoy legal protections, but societal discrimination and domestic violence persist.

↓ Trend Arrow: Zimbabwe received a downward trend arrow due to the heavy involvement of security forces and government-aligned militias in a campaign of political violence, as well as the government's crackdown on independent Anglican churches.

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